Ross Taylor celebrates after scoring a century during the
first day of the second test against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
There was no player mutiny nor one in prospect but Ross
Taylor's tenure as New Zealand cricket captain was becoming
Sources close to the team say dissatisfaction with Taylor's
captaincy style had risen but it was new coach Mike Hesson
who took the decision to make the change.
What he'd seen, sources say, were several things: a
dispirited dressing room; a captain whose communication
skills were not up to lifting spirits; a kind of vicious
circle in which poor results stifled performance; bowlers who
were tired of Taylor's remonstrations when they, for example,
bowled a bad ball.
Taylor led from the front with his batting but that was no
longer enough to take the team with him.
The Herald on Sunday spoke to some of the best minds in New
Zealand cricket, many closely placed to the team. The picture
consistently painted - and there are two schools of thought
on the Taylor issue - is of a coach who thought change had to
be made if performance was to be lifted; change which
For Taylor, the decision - or the way it was implemented -
has been intolerable to this point, hence his absence from
the tour to South Africa. His anger is understandable.
However, what is being ignored by some fans, say sources, is
that Hesson faced a tough call. It was easier to do nothing
but, in the interests of the team's long-term success, he
chose to be bold.
His coaching tenure will be judged on that; many already see
him as out of his depth, making the quantum leap from Otago
and Kenya to coaching a test side.
Regardless of his intention - and the politically correct
notion it would 'divvy up responsibility' - in hindsight it's
hard to see how this could have had created anything but a
flashpoint for Taylor, especially with the appalling timing
before the test series. As one source noted this week:
"Nobody in their right mind would conduct it this way."
Numerous sources close to the team suggest Taylor's lack of
vision, communication and, on rare occasion, temperament had
left the side dispirited.
Naturally not a loquacious leader, Taylor could afford to
speak less under former coach John Wright, who conducted more
dressing room talk. Hesson prefers to leave it to the
"Without doubt (it had to happen)" was a phrase used by one
source in relation to of Hesson's decision. There was also a
strong school of thought that stressed Taylor was honest,
loyal and had no hidden agendas. There were those in the team
prepared to follow him but there was no question, sources
said, that some in the team were tiring of his captaincy
To Taylor's credit, he was using his initiative to improve
himself privately but the damage had been done. The bowlers
were a particular case study. It was suggested there was not
enough encouragement or empathy as they went about their
toil. Some would argue an angry bowler hungry to get wickets
to please a glaring skipper is a good thing, but it had
become overused as a strategy.
No-one questioned Taylor's ability as a batsman, fielder and
honourable bloke but it got to a point where the team needed
leadership through more than just his bat and hands. There is
no dispute he produced the runs but Hesson apparently felt
leadership of an international sports team required more,
given the side is basically a second family much of the year.
Hesson has become public enemy No 1 in some quarters, mainly
because of the debate over whether he intended Taylor to keep
any form of the captaincy rather than just the tests. The
saga began when Hesson, manager Mike Sandle and assistant
coach Bob Carter entered Taylor's hotel room on November 13,
four days before the first test against Sri Lanka at Galle.
Taylor says the test captaincy was never mentioned and he
thought he'd been stripped of all forms. Hesson and NZC say
it was intended only that captaincy of the short forms be
shifted - but the offer of leading the test team was not
specified in the hotel room.
What is not in dispute is that Hesson felt compelled to make
a pragmatic - some would argue brave - decision in the
interests of a team ranked eighth in tests and Twenty20 and
ninth in one-dayers. The irony of the decision is that it was
Taylor's heroics in the second test against Sri Lanka that
saved the side from equalling New Zealand's worst test losing
What many forget is Taylor's captaincy was already under
scrutiny before Hesson took over but it seems the
38-year-old, who is regularly referred to as having "no test
experience" and who has patronisingly been called "a boy" in
some media, is going to take the rap regardless. Hesson also
faced pressure from director of cricket John Buchanan who was
adamant Taylor should be retained.
Taylor is hardly a unique cricketing example in this regard.
Greats such as Sachin Tendulkar (captain in 25 of 193 tests),
Brian Lara (47 of 131) and Ian Botham (12 of 102) were the
best players in their teams but held the leadership for
limited periods. Botham even produced his Ashes Headingley
follow-on masterpiece the test after he stepped down.
Taylor now needs to focus on being New Zealand's greatest
batsman and mop up the records of mentor Martin Crowe. With
eight test centuries at age 28, there is plenty of time to
get to Crowe's 17 for starters.
- Andrew Alderson